Father’s Day Reflections

I wasn’t planning on writing today. But I also wasn’t planning on being so melancholy. It just happened. The day started out great. My daughter gave a piece of art to my husband that she has been working on for 2 months. We enjoyed a nice morning together. But, naturally, I started reflecting on my own father, who left this earth 14 months ago. I miss him terribly. To be honest, Father’s day wasn’t an easy day when he was alive. They didn’t make Hallmark cards for the kind of dad I had. He was not an easy man to live with but he always had our back. He was scary at times but the world was less scary with him in it. To give you an idea of what I mean by this, picture Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino in the scene “Get off my lawn”. Everyone who saw that movie in particular, said how much Clint Eastwood reminded them of my dad. Yup, that is as close a depiction as you are going to get, minus the gun. My father was a complicated man: he was a hero in his job as a firefighter, he was a star as a basketball player when he was young, and he was a larger-than-life person in many ways. When we needed a new bathroom in our house, no contractors were hired. My father demolished the old bathroom and put in a new one. When we needed a new roof, he put on a new roof, with the help of his brother. My father did everything in a big way. He smoked  A LOT of cigarettes, he drank A LOT of alcohol, he LOVED US A LOT and we knew it, and he screamed really loud and the neighbors all knew that. He defied death several times; he smoked for over 60 years, fought fires in the Bronx when the Bronx was burning, and he survived prostate cancer, laryngeal cancer and alcoholism. What was an early stage lung cancer going to do to him? He would have the lobe of his lung out and be back to driving us all crazy in no time….so we thought. But 9 days after the surgery, my father died of complications. Not only did his large presence leave a huge void for all of us, it also changed my awareness of my own mortality, in both good and bad ways. I say things that I may have left unsaid before. I wake up and acknowledge that I have another day on this beautiful earth.  I am more hyper vigilant about various physical symptoms that arise….a little too aware of my own impermanence. The other change that happened since my father died was the realization that when our loved one dies, we remember the good more than we remember the bad and that even the so-called “bad” aspects are embraced after death. My sisters and I have many hilarious stories about his “Clint Eastwood” moments. It is the contrast of life that is so magnificent. I am remembering to welcome all the emotions that show up as well. Rumi describes this beautifully in his poem “The Guest House” (see below). Today, I welcomed gratitude for the two fathers of my children and for the father I had. I welcomed sadness and gave myself space for reflection. For all those out there without fathers, missing their fathers, estranged from fathers, or hating their fathers, I sent loving-kindness. For all those blessed with fathers in their life who show up and do the best they can, enjoy the moments!

 

The Guest House by Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

No One Would Know

No One Would Know

As we walk around through our day, there are times that NO ONE WOULD KNOW what we are dealing with, our inner turmoil. How do I know this so well? I lived it. I was the master of the “Mask”, the cloaked look that all is well, that I AM FINE when in fact, all was not well and I was in pain. How many people are walking around with demons of addiction, financial insecurity, feeling inadequate, feeling worried about their health, their children, their job or any myriad of other things? How many are anxious or even panicky and don’t want to admit it? How many are depressed and the idea of facing a beautiful day when the birds are chirping is so, so hard? I think it would be safe to say that we ALL have our demons. That is our shared humanity.  However, for many of us the demons are not shared; they are experienced in isolation, which magnifies the problem.

I started taking off my own mask when I joined a circle of people who were willing to honestly admit their darkness, their shortcomings, and their fears. I then was able to admit my own and accept that I was not unique. The reason I love doing group workshops is that when we create a circle of trust and non-judgment accepting whatever “visitor” enters, whether it be despair, anger, or grief, it is powerful indeed. We share in our common humanity and at the same time see the other person’s divine nature. It is being “seen” that heals. The mask comes off when we are seen in our wholeness. When we isolate, this is not possible. We have created an online community of shared humanity and compassionate solutions. Mindful and Compassionate Communities has a mission to create community, to educate individuals, families and communities in mindfulness and self-compassion and to empower others to face what is under the mask and share in the story “No One Would Know”.  We want to hear your story about your inner struggles that have yet to be shared openly and exist under the mask of “I AM FINE!” Join our community and share YOUR story! Use the hashtag #noonewouldknow when posting your story.

https://www.facebook.com/mindfulcompassionatecommunities/

https://westchestercenterformindfulnessandwellbeing.com

 

 

Loving-Kindness for ALL Mothers

Loving-Kindness for ALL Mothers

One of my favorite meditation practices is a loving-kindness meditation. It is a meditation where we mentally send warmth and kindness to others and to one’s self. It is a beautiful way of cultivating compassion. In this meditation, I sit comfortably, close my eyes and place my hand over my heart. I first send loving kindness to myself, because first things first. Next, I bring a particular person or group of people to mind and send them Loving-Kindness. I do this by repeating 5 phrases silently. Here are the set of phrases I mentally direct to the person(s) I am thinking about:

           May you be well, healthy and strong.

           May you be happy.

           May you experience peace.

           May you feel safe and secure.

           May you feel loved and supported.

 And at the end, I visualize all the loving-kindness that I sent out to others as coming back to me and I repeat the 5 phrases for myself, once again. I do this part because I believe that whatever you send out in the world comes back to us. Yes, it is a kind of boomerang, the Law of Attraction in action.

This morning, my loving-kindness meditation was directed to all mothers…to mothers who try their best yet never feel good enough, to mothers who lost a child, to mothers who are estranged from a child, to mothers who have a child in prison or rehab, to mothers who have given their child up for adoption, to the mothers who have adopted those children, to mothers who never saw the face of their child, to mothers who are mothers and fathers, to mothers who feel isolated, to mothers who feel they messed up and still don’t know what the right thing would have been, to mothers who scream at their children and then feel guilty, to mothers who spoil their children and then feel guilty, to mothers who are no longer with us physically, to mothers that drag their tired butt out of bed to do the next right thing for their child, day after day after day, for ALL mothers…mothers who are joyous today and mothers who suffer today, and especially to MY mother, who loves me still with every beat of her heart.

There is no curriculum for being a mother. It is personal, between mother and child. Motherhood is sacred and tough and the biggest honor in the world. It is joyful and sorrowful and never carefree. If we allow it, our children can be our best teachers. They mirror what needs to be healed within us. They are not our trophies. They are our blessings, masterpieces to be discovered….together. I have been and continue to be taught well by the four gems that carved out motherhood for me: John, Katie, Kevin and Sarah.

If you are a mother, send yourself some loving-kindness today….and know I have already sent some your way.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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When the going gets tough…Take a Self-Compassion Break

When the going gets tough…Take a Self-Compassion Break

We all have moments where we feel we don’t measure up. A friend described a scenario to me that was so relatable. She was describing a low point in her life on a beautiful spring day as she was walking in Central Park. She was looking around and saw people pushing carriages, holding hands, playing Frisbee, and laughing. She groaned. She believed that these seemingly happy people must have received a manual that she somehow missed on how to be happy. She had a veil of darkness that prevented her from plugging into the Well-Being that is there for the taking, the Universal Flow of Life. This was one of her darkest moments but also one of her brightest moments, as it was the moment that she realized she needed help.

All of us have moments that are dark. AND we all need each other. It is in connection that the light can enter our darkness. Being connected to our own inner self is vital for our Well-Being. When I am struggling with any negative emotion, I connect to myself by taking a self-compassion break. I learned about self-compassion from Dr. Kristin Neff. To learn more about the research behind practicing self-compassion: http://self-compassion.org.

Practicing self-compassion is similar to treating yourself like you would your best friend. I use it in my parenting a lot. Parenting is not for wimps. It can be really tough especially when adolescence hits. When I am feeling frustrated, angry, disappointed, or any negative emotion, this is what taking a “Self-Compassion Break” looks like for me.

  • I take a deep breath.
  • I acknowledge that whatever it is I am going through is tough. I say to myself “This is difficult.” Once I acknowledge the difficulty and accept that what is happening in the moment is what it is, I tap into a immediate sense of relief. I can feel my shoulders drop. I relax a little.
  • I then say to myself,  “I am not alone. There are millions of other parents who go through these difficulties.” This is a real switch from former beliefs that other people have the answers and I am the only person in the dark. This forms CONNECTION. This lifts the veil of isolation.
  • I then place a hand on a part of my body in a gesture of love to myself. If no one is around I may place my hand over my heart. If I am doing this out in the open, I may place my hand on my arm and stroke my arm in a reassuring way. I am sending love and kindness to myself. I say “May I be kind to myself as I go through this difficulty. May I send myself love.” I tell myself that I am doing the best I can. Then, when I am able I say a couple of affirming statements, such as “I am brave. I am facing my challenges wholeheartedly.”
  • I usually end my self-compassion break with a mantra that I find helpful such as “This too shall pass.” “The Universe is always conspiring for my benefit.”

By the time, this process ends, often just a couple of minutes, I have shifted. The great news is that I can do it at any time and it helps me become connected even when I am alone. It is also a great process to model for your children. Children start to become critical of themselves in grade school. We tend to think it is motivational to be critical of ourselves, but research has shown this is not true. Self-criticism can induce anxiety and depression. Cultivating self-compassion is protective against anxiety and depression.

Spring is here! I wish you renewed hope, peace and joy. The next time your inner joy is muted by grief, anger, frustration or sadness, try a self-compassion break. Send me your comments about your experiences. Would love to hear from you!

To join the movement of Mindful and Compassionate Communities and to learn more about our programs, click on these links:

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Reflections of 2016/Intentions for 2017

It has been quite a year,  this 2016 year, to say the least. In my immediate family there has been a death, a wedding, a graduation, a new school,  a new business venture, a thriving business and a cancer diagnosis. And in between these life-changing events, there has been food shopping, laundry, mild sicknesses, extreme joy, little pleasures, deadlines, bills to pay, birthday celebrations, gratifying service and brainless work. That is life. But is it random? Oh, NO! I do not believe that it is random at all. I believe there is a time and season for everything and each day is a gift AND I am the creator of my reality.

During these last few hours of 2016, I cannot help but reflect on what I have co-created during this year. Here are my REFLECTIONS: I have loved. I have laughed, loudly. I have lost. I have cried, a lot. I have feared. I have been righteous, especially in November. I have hated. I have grieved. I have loved. I have practiced mindfulness. I have practiced gratitude. I have forgotten to practice mindfulness. I have forgotten to practice gratitude. I walked a long aisle in a huge cathedral and graduated. I watched my father take his last breath. I wept. I witnessed my son and his lovely wife take their vows in the majesty of the mountains. I wept. I have waited outside recovery rooms and prayed. I voted. I watched our next President get elected. I wept. I have listened to others’ suffering with compassion. I have been sick. I spent too many hours on Facebook. I have been joyous. I have judged. I have worked on not judging. I have lost my temper. I belonged to a gym and did not go. I have served others. I sat in the ICU next to my daughter hoping breathing would not be so difficult. I have started a new business. I wrote a book. I have loved. I have created and co-created.

What is it that I want to create in 2017? Here are my 17 INTENTIONS for 2017:

  1. Love always–see everyone as the divine beings they are.
  2. Laugh daily—loudly and belly-aching.
  3. Create a Mindful and Compassionate Community of People–starting with parents!
  4. Sit every day on a cushion paying attention to inhaling and exhaling.
  5. Go to the gym three times a week.
  6. Be humble….remembering I am no better and no less than anyone else.
  7. Practice self-compassion.
  8. Continue to eliminate “things” from my life.
  9. Publish my book.
  10. Cook more often (4 times per week.)
  11. Volunteer at least monthly.
  12. Go on daily mindful walks with my pup.
  13. Grow a vegetable garden this summer.
  14. Compost.
  15. Write in my gratitude journal daily.
  16. Go away on a sisters’ and mom weekend.
  17. Stay in the precious present moment.

When I keep the focus on what I can do to create the life I want and do not focus on external circumstances that are not within my control, I am filled with hope for the New Year. My mantra that keeps me going when I am filled with fear is  “The Universe is always conspiring for my benefit”.  No matter what happens, I keep the faith. Expect miracles…..you never know! Happy New Year! xoxo

 

Being the Change you wish to see in the World: The Vision and Mission of Mindful and Compassionate Communities.

I started this blog years ago to write about Law of Attraction which is the basis for my life coaching.  I love studying Universal Laws, watching how things play out in this time-space reality we call Life. Basically, everything we see around us is a manifestation that started with thought. This post is about a thought that a colleague, Jan Fielder, and I have been discussing: how to bring about positive change: one person at a time, one family at a time and one community at a time.  I do believe that we are the creators of our own reality. I believe that our life is a result of what we focus on. I believe meaning comes from living authentically. I believe that each person that walks this earth has a purpose that only they can fill. I believe that radical acceptance is what relieves suffering. I have a vision where diversity is not just tolerated, but embraced, individuals are supported to live meaningful and purpose-driven lives, the basic human rights of  people are respected: freedom, honor and dignity is accessible to all, suffering is met with compassion and the earth is nurtured and cared for. That is some vision, huh?  When I wrote down my vision, my first thought was that it may be too grand! But hey, we are not meant to live quietly and small; we are meant to live OUR unique greatness. As Marianne Williamson reminds us,  Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?…We are all meant to shine, as children do.”

If Marianne Williamson is right, why are so many people not “shining” in this life?  Why are they hurting others, dumping on the environment, being racist, and just plain cruel? Humans live based on their conditioning, unless they choose to be deliberate. We are all conditioned by our parents, teachers, society, neighbors, workplace, etc. If we are functioning on auto-pilot, the thoughts and actions are going to be the ones that we were conditioned with and not ones we are deliberately choosing. Each of us have an inner light that we can live from instead of living from our conditioned selves and it is the mission of Mindful and Compassionate Communities to help individuals connect with their inner light. This in turn affects the families and communities that the individuals live in. When we live from a mindful, compassionate and deliberate place, we have more choices, choices about the kind of life we want to live, and choices about the kind of world we want to live in.

Every day that I see a news clip or snippet of the most current political decision, I could cry. There is much going on currently that seems broken. I believe we need a Mindful and Compassionate Movement. The movement I am referring to does not include protests. It is first and foremost an inner movement. From this inner work, outer change is manifested. Personally, I do not participate in protests. I do not focus my energy fighting things I do NOT want. As a Law of Attraction practitioner, I believe I create by focusing on what I WANT to manifest, not by focusing on what I DO NOT WANT. So how can I achieve the vision of a Mindful and Compassionate Communities? I have started by being Mindful and Compassionate myself. This change ripples out to my family and my community. The more individuals that participate in the “Mindful and Compassionate Communities” movement, the more of a ripple it will make out into the world. If you are interested in this movement and in learning more, please like us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mindfulcompassionatecommunities/.  “BE the change you want to see.”  Help us to deliberately create a Mindful and Compassionate world.

Thoughts about gratitude

Gratitude has become one of those buzzwords we hear a lot.  If we wait for it to come over us like happiness or sadness, we may wait a long time. But if we practice gratitude daily, not just on Thanksgiving, it will be more readily available to us. I like to think of gratitude like savoring. We all get what it feels like to savor a delicious piece of pie. If we take the time to really savor it, to take those moments to let the pie linger in our mouth, to chew our bites slowly, that is the experience of gratitude. It is NOTICING all the aspects of the pie we like…the smell, the taste, the texture. Last night I sat with my children (almost all my children) and savored each of them as they spoke. I gave silent thanks that they were smiling, present, enjoying, and thriving. I gave additional thanks for their health, for the contribution each of them makes to the family, for their humor and for their beauty. As we ate, I noticed that we had a begging dog under the table, who was not only begging but was passing gas (all traits so not welcome during meals), and then the thought occurred to me how much we will miss having her there when she is gone. I looked at her pathetic but adorable face….begging….hoping for one of us to drop a ravioli or some meat sauce her way and I smiled, smiled with gratitude for our loyal dog who shows us so much unconditional love.

We always have a choice about how we look at the events and people in our lives and we can ALWAYS find something to be grateful for, even amidst painful and unwanted situations. My sister has been undergoing chemotherapy. She lives in Washington DC but came up  to New York to be around her 4 sisters and mother while she receives treatment for lung cancer. Cancer sucks but having my sister here in New York is a gift! I have been grateful for the opportunity to spend more time with her and have a different relationship than I have had in the past. We have become closer as a result of cancer and we are both grateful!

Today, on this national holiday set aside to celebrate gratitude and family and friends, I hope you can find something to be grateful for. I wish for each and every person reading this that they will NOTICE the gifts that show up, even those disguised as hardships! Happy Thanksgiving!